Bouncing Ball Effect? No, you haven’t lost your marbles; this is a real issue in the retention of newly qualified vets. As you will probably know, there is a shortage of veterinary professionals out there; in Britain, America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, to name but a few places. A veterinary graduate has become somewhat of a ‘hot ticket’ now, but job adverts still remain vague copies of one another.
In this article, we describe a new effect we have named the ‘Bouncing Ball Effect’, and how you can combat its effects as a practice owner.
The Bouncing Ball Effect
Veterinarians are ‘bouncing’ off the radar. In fact, around 50% report feeling like their career has not lived up to expectations and are at risk of bouncing off the veterinary practice career pathway altogether. Interestingly, according to the same piece of research, the experience of a first job is vital in determining how often a veterinarian will ‘bounce’ from one job to another…and potentially off the table altogether. It seems likely therefore that, someone who has a great first experience has a dramatically improved career trajectory than someone who has an initially bad experience. Our first experiences really do reside in our shadows!
The reasons for this effect need more exploration, but it seems likely that those who have a good first experience feel supported and develop a deeper sense of achievement and self worth as they gain experience. They are also better supported through those inevitable moments of trouble and failure. An individual who has a ‘good’ experience will likely have a positive attitude and will therefore be willing to roll with the punches should they encounter challenges.
On the other hand, someone with a ‘bad’ initial experience becomes emotionally wounded from the outset. They are not as likely to find the resolve to try again for fear of things getting worse, and so never build their life experience that results in the development of resilience. This is the beginning of the bouncing ball effect. Alarmed by the fact that their experience has not met their (incredibly narrow) horizon of expectations, they are likely to move to a new job, and should they suffer again, bouncing once more, the risk of bouncing out of the profession altogether rises.
So, how can you stop this from happening with your new employee?
What are New Graduates Really Expecting?
Honest and Specific Job Descriptions
What strikes us is the total vagueness of many job descriptions for veterinarians. The same nondescript advert seems to be churned out time and again, and as veterinarians come and go the advert becomes a rusty carousel horse awaiting the next unexpecting rider. Ultimately, practice owners must make their job adverts more honest if they hope to attract candidates that truly fit the bill. It really is a win-win situation because, if you create a specific and honest description, you will attract candidates that truly fit the bill and know precisely what they are signing up for. In return, the candidate must be honest too. This is so their expectations can be met. The threat of morphing into a bouncing ball diminishes.
According to many in-house and published surveys, new veterinarians crave support. It is up to the applicant to voice this, and for the practice manager to recognise.
Support comes in three essential forms: clinical, emotional and general wellbeing. For example, clinical support may be having a veterinarian there to discuss difficult cases with, and emotional support will likely be having a mentor. All of these factors of support contribute to what new veterinarians constitute a ‘good’ first job experience.
Create a Psychologically Safe Culture
As well as this, a supportive environment goes hand-in-hand with creating a practice that is psychologically safe. If there is an open and honest workplace culture, employees will feel supported enough to speak up if there is an issue, rather than internalising the issue and bouncing on to a new job.
In summary, as a practice owner, it is important to remember that:
The ‘bouncing ball effect’ impacts new graduates with negative first job experiences
Do not underestimate the role of job adverts. Use these to set expectations
New veterinarians define a ‘good’ experience as a supportive one: clinical, emotional, and general wellbeing
A supportive and open practice culture stems from both parties being honest and communicative when issues arise.
With these in mind, you will manage the expectations of the veterinarian and find a candidate that aligns with yours. No longer will you be scrabbling for bouncing balls, but will be juggling them with mastery.
If you found this information useful, you might be interested in checking out our VetX Leaders programme. This is an in-depth course taking you through the fundamental steps of becoming a great leader and pushing the performance of your team.